‘Creed II’ is powerful addition to ‘Rocky’ series

Noah Levine

Sequels don’t suck after all.

“Creed II” is the sequel to 2015’s well-received “Creed.” This follow-up film takes Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan), the son of iconic “Rocky” character Apollo Creed, and puts him in the ring opposite Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu), the son of the infamous “Rocky IV” villain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), who killed Apollo. Adonis faces heavy doubts and pressure from his friends and family as he prepares for the most meaningful fight of his life. Director Steven Caple Jr. expands on the world of boxing through the eyes of a black protagonist, atypical of the “Rocky” series. By adding to the first film’s intriguing storyline, “Creed II” helps establish Adonis at the forefront of his own franchise.

Jordan plays Adonis with an undying determination that’s very apparent in his portrayal. Franchise staple Sylvester Stallone masterfully returns to his iconic role of Rocky yet again, this time as a wisdom-filled uncle figure, instead of a ruthless fighter. Adonis’ wife Bianca (Tessa Thompson) offers a helping hand with impeccable on-screen chemistry with Adonis. Scenes featuring the two characters are crafted with romantic care, taking time to detail their intimate relationship.

Rocky and Adonis work to fully explore their motivations and thought processes as they face the events in the film. This is one of the most beautiful aspects of “Creed II,” as each character portrays raw emotion and reacts naturally to plot events. With this realism, the audience can better resonate with the film’s storyline.

Ivan and his son Viktor are worthy adversaries to Creed and his team. Still reeling from the devastating loss Ivan faced in the ring against Rocky, the duo is desperate to regain respect from Russia. This gives the film’s villain a compelling motive, often making the viewer contemplate which side they are rooting for. However, the nostalgia and history associated with original villain Ivan often overshadow the underdeveloped Viktor. It’s a shame, considering Viktor is Adonis’ true opponent. It would have been beneficial to include more dialogue from the antagonist.

The film is fantastic in its ability to tell a cohesive, compelling and high-stakes story that remains familiar, despite having so many moving parts. Throughout the overall plot of Adonis training to fight Viktor, scenes highlighting character growth and family struggles are seamlessly interwoven. Even with a vast cast, every character has extensive impact on the film’s story in progressive ways. This makes huge narrative events within the film feel more rewarding for the audience.

Another incredible asset of the film is its calculated cinematography and directing. Training sequences are smoothly framed and
choreographed to show the growth and struggles that occur in preparation for a huge fight. These scenes and montages are accompanied by a riveting soundtrack that includes the likes of hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd and rapper Kodak Black.

Overall, “Creed II” is a relentless and nearly perfect entry into the long-running “Rocky” series. The characters and plot are seamlessly interwoven to tell a fascinating narrative about the struggles of following through with passion while also trying to aid loved ones. Viewers shouldn’t be scared of sequel fatigue, as this film is as fresh as it gets.